Yen-Chu - ITHACA, New York
Entered on August 21, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: birth, carpe diem


??Yes, I believe in life. If carpe diem means “seize the day,” then I believe in carpe vitam: “seize life!”

??But what is “life”? When I was twelve, I searched for the purpose of life. My fifth grade science teacher taught me that life is a composition of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen; that carbon bonded complex molecules build up to form human, animals, and plants. My religion claims that life is our soul, and that the wellness of our afterlives depends on what we do with our lives now. Great thinker Rene Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” But I was unsatisfied. Could “life” be nothing but simple elements? Could “life” be a set of moral guidelines? Do we cease living when we’re asleep and not being able to “think?” At the end, it was my six year old brother who taught me my own vision of life, on the day he arrived to this world.

??I remember the night when I was anxiously studying for a test, when my grandma suddenly came up to me with a mysterious smile on her face. “You’re having a new brother,” she said, in a calm and determined voice. However, I could sense both excitement and anxiety in her eyes, and couldn’t help but to wonder what changes this new being would make in all of our lives.

??Four months later, I went to the obstetrician with Mom and Dad. By then, there was a lump on Mom’s belly, like a rising hill. The doctor welcomed us warmly, and helped Mom onto a bed beside an old computer screen. He carefully wiped some Vaseline onto her bare belly and gently pressed a gun shaped device onto it. The “ultrasonography device,” he explained, would help to visualize the baby. Soon, a splash of white wiggled and twirled on the screen, like a tight knit ball of a thousand herrings thrashing in the ocean. I leaned in closer to the monitor as the doctor traced his finger along the screen. The tiny foetus was a boy and it looked so strange with its curled up body and large head. He seemed like an alien that you would see in the movies resting in an immature pupa, waiting to burst. I could barely recognize his face; his hands were tiny, like sprouts of a peanut reaching for the sky. I stared at the monitor and touched the screen where I saw his heart pumping. It pumped fast and strong, merging with Mom’s slower beat. He’s alive! I cried silently. The little heart continued with its own rhythm, oblivious to my amazement. I watched the screen and tuned out the voices in the room until they were a dull murmur. The only sounds left were the merging rhythms of the ultrasound and the heartbeats of the still connected souls, creating a delicate tapestry of music.

??I remember the day he was born. Outside the window of the delivery room, the grey clouds drifted and swirled in the dim sky; rain was trickling down the tiled eaves, drumming lightly on the canopy. I always loved the rain. It refreshes the air, and time seems to flow in a leisurely tranquility. The thought of having a new brother in just a few hours was both thrilling and confusing. I tried to imagine the pain of being separated from Mom, the shock of being born into a world so foreign and new. He would have to learn to breathe, to eat, and to walk through life on his own now. The warmth and safety of the womb ripped away with his first breath of air. As I turned towards the door of the delivery room, I heard a baby’s cry echoing down the narrow hallway, screaming as if unwilling to leave his old nest. Or was the shriek an expression for his excitement for the new life?

??I realized, then, that perhaps what life is doesn’t really matter that much. Maybe life is simply being here, being on this world: breathing, talking, eating, wishing, laughing, and at the end, dying. Carpe vitam, my way of living, is simply to appreciate being born onto this world, and live life to its fullest.